BJU Spelling is a phonics-based spelling program designed to give students an understanding of generalizations and rules that will allow them to spell most words they encounter, not just those they've memorized off a list. Like all Bob Jones products, the student texts are colorful and inviting, and the exercises cater to all learning types. Originally written for a classroom setting, our homeschool versions are more suited for one-on-one instruction.
The course covers grades 1-6. Each text contains 30-36 units with lessons to be taught five days a week. This is not a self-teaching course. In order for students to properly use the worktexts, you will need to buy the teacher editions. At the core of the curriculum is the student worktext and the teacher edition, one of each for each level. Supplementary materials are also available from the publisher, but not necessary.
For each weekly unit there is a pretest, mid-week test, and final test. The pretest gauges how much a student already knows, the mid-week test is largely for reinforcement, and the final test shows the instructor whether the child has grasped the concepts. Many of the exercises are intended to remind the student of what he already knows, and help him reason from there to understand new principles. By making the student think for himself instead of just dumping facts on him and expecting him to memorize each of them by rote, the material tends to stick better and is less easily forgotten. Children are also taught to look for and anticipate patterns in the language, based on a strong phonics background.
In first grade, many of the exercises call on students to fill in the blank--a word that best illustrates that unit's theme is written by the student to complete a sentence. Later, students write original compositions using words they have learned. This is by no means a composition course, but since spelling and writing are so closely related, there is natural overlap. For assignments (as well as the pretest), students correct their mistakes immediately under the teacher's supervision, thus reinforcing the correct spelling by not keeping the incorrect one on the page for them to see and be confused by.
The teacher editions are necessary for this course. Fortunately, they are clear and provide all the information the teacher needs to present the material and guide the student through lessons. Each student worktext page is printed with answers in the teacher edition, along with notes on when and how to introduce important concepts. You shouldn't need more than fifteen minutes for prep time before each lesson, and may need less.
The goal of this program is not merely to teach kids to spell well (though that is certainly the main objective). Creative assignments and exercises are intended to help kids get a feel and love for the English language, and to see the beauty in written words. This is an element left out of too many curricula, and we are glad to see it here.
Bob Jones Press has been in the curriculum business for years, and they've had lots of time to study what works and develop appealing courses bsaed on those findings. If you want a solid phonics-based spelling program that isn't student-directed, this is an excellent choice. If you're looking for long lists of words for students to memorize, or have trained your children to read using a sight-reading program, this probably isn't what you're looking for. Spelling probably isn't anyone's favorite subject, but this course makes it about as fun as it's possible to make it.